Author Archives: Mr. Vincent DiCostanzo

« Joyeux Quatorze Juillet ! »

Cinematheque wants to take a moment wish all of our friends a « Joyeux Quatorze Juillet ! ».

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate, we suggest joining other franophiles and pastry-lovers alike at the annual Bastille Day Celebration at Philadelphia’s own Eastern State Penitentiary.
Marie Antoinette will be there – at least for a short while.

I would suggest sticking around and taking a tour of one of America’s first prisons – and Philadelphia’s best-kept secrets.

Have a safe and happy weekend!

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Un Chien Andalou: More Than Meets The Eye

Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) is a fifteen minute visual assault.  Seeing it for the first time is like bing punched in the gut.  Eyes being cut, severed hands poked in the middle of the street, and young men literally burdened with the weight of the world are presented, without any context. Furthermore, repeated viewings add onnly little coherence to the chaos.  That is precisely what makes Un Chien Andalou so exhilarating.

Luis Buñuel was not the first filmmaker to bring surrealism to the screen.  Hans Richter, for instance, made Ghosts Before Breakfast in 1928, a year before Un Chien Andalou was released.  However, Buñuel brought in the undisputed king of surrealism, Salvador Dali, and their collaboration is not only a highlight of their careers, but a foreshadowing of the rest of their oeuvres.  The way the normal and abnormal collide are indicative of Dali’s paintings, whereas the confusion and anarchy that love brings are the trademarks of later Buñuel works, such as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object Of Desire.

Un Chien Anadlou is a film with an infamous beginning and several disjointed endings.  In fact, the very narrative is skewed with title cards such as “Eight Years Later” and “Sixteen Years Earlier”.  You don’t even know which male character is which, unless you refer to each as “the shooter” and “the victim”.  And even then, every bit of exposition makes you second guess which came before and will come after it.

To take any of this seriously would be missing the point, which is what Buñuel and Dali are trying to say about the absurdity of love.  By the time Spring, the season most connected with love, arrives, the male and female protagonist are finally joined together, devoid of chaos, but also devoid of life.  The best way to enjoy Un Chien Andalou is to dive in head first and succumb to the visceral, the bizarre, and, yes, the eye-cutting.

By Tom Keiser

Un Chien Andalou screens with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) tonight
July 9th, 7:30pm
AxD Gallery / 265 South 10th Street / Philadelphia, PA
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Philly QFest and Danger After Dark Festivals’ French tastes

Thursday night, July 7th will mark the opening of Philadelphia QFest – one of the largest Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transsexual film festivals in the country. Now in its 17th year, QFest will be showcasing 107 films from around the world, including 43 feature films, 9 documentaries and 55 shorts.  Among these titles (7 World Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres and 2 US Premieres) , QFest will be presenting FOUR films from France:

  • The Evening Dress (La Robe du soir) (2009, 96 mins, France, Director: Myriam Aziza)
    Juliette, a 12-year-old tomboy, develops a crush that borders on obsession with a stylish,
    uninhibited female teacher in this daring coming-of-age story.
    Friday, July 8 – 5:00 – Ritz East
    Tuesday, July 12 – 7:15 – Ritz Bourse
  • Gigola (2009, 100 mins, France, Director: Laure Charpentier)
    In this incredibly sexy, hard-boiled narrative set in the seedy underbelly of 1960s Paris, a
    mischievous Sapphic night-stalking gigolo preys upon rich lovers.
    Wednesday, July 13 – 5:00pm – Ritz Bourse
    Sunday, July 17 – 7:00pn – Ritz East
  • Tomboy (2010, 84 mins, France, Director: Céline Sciamma)
    A tomboy passes herself off as a boy to her friends in a new neighborhood in this Truffaut-esque
    drama.
    Wednesday, July 13 – 7:15pm – Ritz Bourse
    Saturday, July 16 – 2:30pm – Ritz Bourse
  • A Few Days of Respite (Quelques jours de répit) (2010, 80 min, France/Algeria, Director:
    Amor Hakkar)
    Two gay men escape from Iran and seek safety in a small French village, but freedom, love and
    happiness clearly has a price in this quietly affecting drama.
    Sunday, July 10 – 4:45 – Ritz East

QFest runs from Thursday, July 7th to Monday, July 18th.
Tickets and additional information can be found on Qfest’s website.
(twitter: @QFEST, or facebook.com/qfestphilly)

Running concurrent to Philly QFest is the Danger After Dark Film Festival. Now in its 11th year, the festival highlights pure genre films – “graphically gory, sexually explicit, formally experimental, or just plain indescribably strange” films that push the boundaries of horror, action and science fiction. The nine films selected to represent this year’s festival come from all corners of the globe – Japan, Thailand, Argentina, Spain and France are all represented.

From France comes Point Blank (À bout portant) (2010, 84 min, France, Director: Fred Cavayé) a “breakneck-paced, high-concept French thriller about an innocent man trying to save his kidnapped wife”. Point Blank screens on Monday, July 11, 9:30pm at the Ritz Bourse.

The host nation is nicely represented by Delaware film maker Ti West, whose film The Innkeepers (featuring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and local gal Kelly McGillis), “[a] masterful exercise in suspense…exploring the Shining-like environment of a creepy hotel, in beautifully scary fashion.”
The Innkeepers will screen on Saturday, July 16, 10:00 PM at the Ritz at the Bourse.

For tickets and additional info, visit the DAD website.

By Vincent DiCostanzo

The Passion of Lovers is for Death

Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus reimagines the Orphic legend, telling the immortal story of the poet’s love affair with Death.
It depicts the story of Orpheus, a poet beloved by the public – but a pariah among the art set who have turned their affection towards Cegeste, a new and younger voice. Cegeste is like Arthur Rimbaud, whose early death cements his accomplishments as insurmountable.

So the poet, Orpheus, pursues death at the risk of life. As a reward, he receives the sounds of his new poetry as transmissions through the car radio coming from another realm. “I’m on the trail of the unknown,” he says as he is possessed by the words of the dead.
The poet is torn between two loves: Life and Death. He is alive and there is the natural obligation of self-preservation. But he would do also anything to prove himself as a poet.

It is death that the poet longs for. He sees it in himself as he gets older, the reflection in the mirror, taunting him but not taking him. Death steals his vitality, his life, his wife, and he descends into hell to retrieve her. There is a cyclical pattern of death and rebirth, the pursuit of one at the stake of the other. This is consistent with Cocteau’s notion of the poet’s need for a series of deaths in order to prove himself.

Orpheus redeems his life/ wife but is not allowed to look at her. Salvation requires repentance – which literally means “to turn away.” To look back at the object of desire is to want more than what has been given. Death is not satisfied by only looking and not touching, as Orpheus needs to have and to hold.

In the end, Death relinquishes Orpheus because she loves him and through his trials and poetry, he has become immortal.
Death as a lover is a common theme in poetry. Shakespeare says, “The stroke of death is a lover’s pinch,” (Antony and Cleopatra IV, ii: 280). Baudelaire describes the Dance of Death in his “Flowers of Evil”.  Emily Dickinson writes that “Death is a suitor” while Stephenie Meyer transforms vampires and monsters into heartthrobs. It is not (always) just a morbid preoccupation. Death is the common terminus of all humans. And as such it holds a certain power over life.
It is a paradox and poetic that the only way to achieve immortality is to woo Death.

by Brian Warfield

Orpheus screening and discussion:
July 1st, 7:30pm
AxD Gallery, 265 South 10th Street / Philadelphia, PA
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A Sunless Chris Marker

Audiences will be most familiar with Chris Marker through La Jette, the 1962 short film he directed twenty years before Sans Soleil. La Jette served as the source material for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, on which Marker is credited as a writer. Prior to making his own films, Marker assistant directed 1955’s Night and Fog, Alain Resnais’ vivid documentary about the horrors of Nazi Concentration Camps. Two years prior, the two co-directed Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues Also Die, 1953), a thirty minute documentary which opens with:

When men die, they become history.
Once statues die, they become art.
The botany of death is what we call culture.

Les Statues Meurent Aussi was one of the first films to take on colonialism and was banned in France almost instantly after its first screening.

Marker wasn’t just a filmmaker (although I’m sure all filmmakers say the same about themselves). Marker was also a writer, a documentarian, multi-media artist and a photographer. (SoHo’s Peter Blum gallery recently closed “Passengers”, a photographic exhibit featuring over 200 digital photographers taken by Chris Marker on the Paris Metro.) Several of Marker’s films, including La Jette, are composed of nothing but still photos. Sans Soleil follows this format and includes asides and photographs depicting life in the twentieth century, using Japan and Alaska as its poles. Narrated by an unknown woman reading letters from a friend, the story also includes a stop in San Francisco, retracing the locations of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

Sans Soleil gets its title from Modest Mussorgsky’s Song Cycle, itself a montage of music. Just as Marker pieces together images from Hitchcock, Mussorgsky was known to make his compositions out of other composer’s works.

Marker did not give interviews, was hardly ever photographed and was known for showing up at his film screenings unannounced and unrecognizable, a pre-Banksy, if you will. While he is remembered as being a recluse of sorts, Jonathan Rosenbaum, in his Criterion Collection essay “Personal Effects, The Guarded of Intimacy of Sans Soleil“, recalls Thomas Pynchon’s sentiments: “My belief is that recluse is a code word generated by journalists… meaning doesn’t like to talk to reporters.”

Rosenbaum questions why Marker chooses to create a separate character, a cameraman, to tell the story in Sans Soleil and his conclusions rely on how individual audience members react to the film. Rosenbaum writes:

The implication is always that it’s the sincerity and lucidity of thoughts and feelings rather
than the individual ego behind them that counts. This has direct consequences
in the various ways we attend to and respond to Sans Soleil; the personal address,
even if it’s detached from the actual person, can’t help but elicit a personal response from us.

While audience members and Rosenbaum ponder these questions, the 1983 New York Times review of Sans Soleil reads, “While Mr. Marker pretends to be examining the quality of contemporary life, though what he actually is doing is examining his own” brings up the age old question, can we really ever separate the artists themselves from the art? (The Times has a point, though, as the San Francisco scenes in the film do not only reference Vertigo but Marker’s own La Jetee.)

I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?While artist versus art questions are constant, and usually interesting fodder, that is not the question audiences should be asking while watching Sans Soleil, or leaving the theatre when the film is over. It is not about the narration, or the speaker. It’s about time and memory. In the film, the narrator says:

It is by this, Marker asks his own questions in his film: what narration and images make up memory? How does time effect it? How do we choose what we remember or does what we remember become what happened? And if that is true, how does that effect the history of the world?

And the net Marker casts in Sans Soleil – from Alaska to Japan to the theatre where you’re sitting – taking it all in, is wide enough to catch everyone’s ego, not just the director’s.

by Jennifer Leah Peck